About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Jews Continue In Their Unbelief (ch. 12:37-50)


When Jesus withdrew Himself was most likely on the Tuesday before Passover.  We are not sure where He withdrew Himself.  Maybe it was to Bethany with His friends.  We do know at some point in the next day or so He was on the Mount of Olives praying.  From this point on Jesus’ public ministry was over.  What He had to say was said, and what He had to do He did.  Much of what He had to do was miraculous but John tells us in verse 37 that the Jews still did not believe.  It just goes to show, as we well know today, it doesn't matter what is done in the name of Jesus; if someone does not want to believe, he will not believe.


Jesus knew what the outcome of His ministry would be.  It had been prophesied in the Old Testament.  In verse 38 John quotes from Isaiah 53:1.  "Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed."  There are two prophetic statements here that John quotes in relation to Jesus. For the most part, very few people in Israel really believed.  They might have followed Jesus around, watched the miracles, which is what the arm of the Lord refers to, but they never gave themselves to Him in true faith. 


Note that the passage from Isaiah is spoken by someone to the Lord.  The context here in John clearly tells us that it is Jesus; the Messiah that Isaiah was predicting would come, speaking here in Isaiah 53.  The title Lord is in reference to God.   


Verse 39 says that "for this reason they could not believe."  Then in verse 40 John quotes more from Isaiah to back up what he was saying.  "He (God) has blinded their (Israelis) eyes and deadened their hearts so they can neither see … or understand … nor turn and I would heal them. 


What does this quote mean?  Did Israel not have a chance to believe because God would not let them believe?  This is how I see it.  For centuries Israel had hardened their hearts against the Word of the Lord.  Their hearts were well hardened before God blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.  It is the same as it was with Pharaoh when Israel escaped the domination of Egypt .  It is said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  Well, in fact you will note the Pharaoh’s heart was already hardened by his own choice.  God only hardened it more and made it completely hard.  Pharaoh had many opportunities to soften his heart, but he consistently refuse.  The same was true with Israel in Jesus’ time.  Their hearts were already hard by their own choice, God only completed the process.


We should understand, Biblically speaking, God gives individuals and nations ample time to repent and come to Him, but, there will come a time where He will step back and give us to our sin as Paul states in Romans 1:24 and following.  Then, sooner or later, God can and will make it impossible for that people or nation to believe.  Paul confirmed this in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 when he said that in the last days God would send people "a powerful delusion so they would believe a lie."  What Paul says here is exactly what this Isaiah quote here in John means.  Don't be fooled.  God is sovereign.  He can and will do what He wants to do, and, He can and will blind the hearts and minds so people are unable to believe.    


Note the word "heal" in verse 40.  Many, if not most, Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians jump to the conclusion that the word "heal" always refers to physical healing.  That is clearly not the case here.  Heal, in this instance means heal from spiritual blindness and hardness of heart.  I suggest the same applies to Isaiah 53:5 where Isaiah says that "by His wounds you are healed."  If you carefully read that statement in context you will note that the word "heal" is not speaking of physical healing, but, of spiritual healing.         


In verse 41 John says that Isaiah said this "because he (Isaiah) saw the glory of Jesus and spoke about it."  Centuries before Jesus was on earth, in the days of Isaiah, God had opened the eyes and heart of this prophet in order to see into the future days of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  It was as if he had been warped into another era to put it in Star Trek terms.


Even though for the most part the crowd only followed on Jesus' bandwagon, John says that many Pharisees actually did believe in Jesus, yet they were secretive about it.  They did not want to be kicked out of the synagogue.  The synagogue was more than a place of worship.  It was the centre of Jewish culture.  It was a place where the poor could be fed, the lost could be found, and the elderly being taken care of.  In fact the synagogue was somewhat of a welfare community centre.  No one wanted to be excommunicated from the synagogue.       


All through the Old Testament God had what is called His remnant, that is, those men and women who truly gave themselves to Him.  God has never been without a people, and so it was in the days of Jesus.  There was a remnant of true believers.  A remnant is a smaller part of something that is bigger.  A remnant of fabric is a small piece of a larger block of fabric.  The same is true with God’s people.  There’s the larger group of so-called people of God, and within that larger group is a smaller group who are the real people of God.


So, some of the leaders did have some kind of faith in Jesus, but fear prevented them from exposing their faith.  Fear is the number one enemy of faith.  It always has been and it always will be. 


John then tells us that the leaders who did believe in Jesus loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.  This tells me how we should understand the word "believe" in this verse.  This is not a belief or a trust in Jesus that led to them to give their lives to Jesus and thus be saved.     


In verse 44 Jesus cries out by saying if a man believes in me he believes in the one who sent me also, and if he sees me, he sees the one who sent me.  This is the truth the John has been reminding us about throughout his gospel account.  When John wrote his book, probably in or around 90 to 95 AD, heresy over who Jesus was began to spread throughout the church.  It is for this reason that John constantly recalls Jesus stating His relationship with God, His Father.      


We don’t know where and 
when Jesus says these 
words.  We know that He has already left the temple and is in seclusion.  Maybe He was with His close followers, but then why would He have to cry out, as if He was speaking to a large crowd.  Maybe the cry was an emotional outburst of sadness, or, maybe as some think, these words that John quotes here were simply words of summery that Jesus had often spoken.


Earlier in John we saw that Jesus claimed to be the light of the world.  In verse 46 He makes this claim again.  He then says that those who trust Him no longer have to walk in the darkness of the world.  Jesus viewed the world, the culture of the day, as being dark.  Darkness in the Bible is associated with sin.  Jesus, like the first generation church, believed that the world in which they lived was utterly sinful.  We should have the same attitude, but that's not always the case in today's church.    


In verse 47 Jesus tells us once again that He did not come to earth to judge the world but to save the world.  As I've said earlier in my commentary, Jesus did make judgment calls, but a judgment call is not what He is talking about here.  The judgment that Jesus did not make while on earth, He will make at the end of this age, or, as Prophetic Futurists believe, at the White Throne Judgment.  It is important for us to differentiate between making a normal everyday judgment call land judging individuals at the White Throne Judgment.


Jesus speaks of the White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20 when in verse 48 He speaks of the judgment of the last day.  He says that the words that He has spoken will in fact be the judge that condemns the unbeliever.  By this He means that if we do not receive what Jesus says, what He has said will be repeated on the Day of Judgment and at that time it will become clearly evident that those words were not heeded and thus condemnation is the natural result.    


In verses 49 and 50 Jesus goes on to say that He did not speak His own words.  We’ve heard Him say this over and over again.  He spoke God’s words, even to the point of  how He should say these words.  Jesus did not vary from God’s will in the tone of voice and the manner in which He said the Words of God. Again, Jesus is pointing out His relationship with God, His Father.


In verse 50 Jesus said that His words lead to eternal life.  Note they lead to eternal life.  That is to say, they point the way to eternal life.


Eternal life as seen in the New Testament speaks of eternal life with Jesus.  All humans will live eternally, that is forever, but, not all will live with Jesus.  Nonbelievers will also live forever but in the Lake of Fire.  The point here is that the words eternal life in Biblical terms only applies to the blessed state of the saved dead.      


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